Life Lessons: The Golden Girls

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but most of the shows I do enjoy are older shows. Probably my favorite is The Golden Girls. I remember watching this show when I was growing up, right after we would come home from church. I even remember our priest at the time loving the show, making jokes and references in relation to it, and teasing how he would keep his sermon short so everyone could make it home in time for The Golden Girls.

I was quite young, but I remember laying on the living room floor, chin propped in hand, wide-eyed while the show was on. I remember laughing, sometimes because I thought it was funny, but other times because my parents laughed, so I did too. I didn’t really get a lot of the jokes or references the show made. I continued watching the show in reruns through high school and college, getting made fun of along the way, but also turning people onto it as well. But over the years, finally getting all the jokes and references they made.

Now it seems it’s “way cool” to like The Golden Girls. But you shouldn’t watch and like it because of that. It is a really funny show, well-written, starring actors who knew their comedy, and had amazing chemistry together. They also confronted some tough social issues, but in a really smart comedic way while still showing the plight or feelings of the particular issue. Plus, they just don’t make shows like this anymore. And I always say, if it hadn’t been for The Golden Girls there wouldn’t have been a Sex and the City (that’s good or bad, depending on your preference). They were the original sassy, independent foursome, just older and not as well-dressed. They were charming, witty, and raunchy without being completely overt and gruesome about it.

But I digress. Over all the years watching this show, the multitudes of viewings of each episode, being able to recite practically all of the lines, and laughing with these ladies, I’ve also learned some valuable things. And though this show is over 25 years old, and three of the four stars have passed away (so sad), this show still can hold its own and has stood the test of time. So here are the life lessons I have gleaned from The Golden Girls.

If your friends don’t tease you, they probably don’t love you, or even like you. These ladies could be pretty mean to each other, but they were always there for each other. They had fights and differences of opinion, but when it came down to it, they had a bond that was strong and forgiving. What’s the saying, “Fake friends will ask if you’re okay when you fall down. Real friends will laugh at you, and then help you up.” Or something like that. So, find the friends who will be honest, who don’t take you or themselves too seriously, and will laugh at, and with you, through life’s ups and downs. They will still have your back in the end. How many times did they whack Rose over the head with a newspaper or such? But they never turned their backs on her when she really needed them. (Although I’m not advocating violence against your friends.) Many of the quips between Dorothy and Sophia were harsh, but has there been a better mother-daughter portrayal? Juxtaposed, endearing, and honest.

Photo by Grant Cochrane

“The older you get, the better you get. Unless you’re a banana.” You’re never too old. . .for anything. To go back to school, to learn a new language, to take a dance class, to date, to fall in love, to still make a difference. I know, you’re sitting there saying, “But this is a TV show, it’s fiction.” The point is, it’s an encouragement, seeing these characters living and trying things, and staying young at heart. Let’s face it, if you’re not already on the AARP mailing list, you will be one day, we all will be. Being a senior citizen, divorced, widowed, or experiencing medical set backs shouldn’t cause you to stop doing what you love or trying new things. These ladies, no matter what, kept their sense of humor, their sense of adventure, and a twinkle in their eye. I love the episode when they decide to toilet paper the Westin’s house. I hope when I’m 60, I’m out TPing my neighbors’ house or taking up a tap class.

The theme song says it all. There have been some great theme songs on TV, but I have to say, for me, “Thank You For Being A Friend” takes the top prize. It’s catchy, it’s fun, it’s sweet. Even when I’m watching the DVD, and the episodes play back-to-back, I still have to sing it, every time! I can’t help it, no matter how mildly (or intensively) annoying it may be. So if you have great friends for whom you care, let them know. There is no better way to express gratitude, love, wishes, etc. to friends than by singing, writing, sending, etc. this song to them. My college friends and I started this years ago (not to mention The Golden Girls drinking game), and to this day we still “sign” messages or comments to each other “Golden Girls Theme.” It says everything and anything we always want to say to each other.

Photo by Simon Howden

Cheesecake can solve anything. Though I know some of the ladies hated cheesecake in real life, the fact that the characters had this shared love of this particular food was a form of therapy and a tradition, while working through tough times, celebrating good times, and sharing stories and moments. I, personally, love cheesecake, so a little Golden Girls comfort comes with each slice I indulge in.

Picture it. . . People pay more attention and revel in your wisdom, if you give them anecdotes in the form of a colorful story. Unless, you’re from Minnesota and talk about the headless boy on St. Sigmund’s day. Then they just think you’re a moron. So find an opening catch phrase, throw in a few white lies to illustrate the lesson learned, and bask in others’ admiration of you and your powerful insight and knowledge.

Good, original insults. While I’ve already mentioned they could be pretty mean to one another, it was just plain funny. Try one of the following out sometime.

  • You’re a furry little gnome and we feed you too much.
  • You deceitful little Sicilian gecko.
  • Fluffhead.
  • You cankerous little prune
  • You withered old Sicilian monkey.
  • I thought since you looked like Yoda, you were also wise.
  • Yutz.
  • Babbling, bobble-headed, bleach blonde baboon.
  • Empty-headed, Mary Poppins knock-off.
  • Garconanokin. (the precise moment dog doo turns white)
  • Oh, blow it out your tubenburbles!

I’m sure there are plenty more, but these always make me giggle.  Okay, so this isn’t really a life lesson, but how many times have you been stumped for a comeback? These strategically placed names or lines (with some tweaks for your specific situation) could come in handy. Besides, they’re just fun.

Those are the ones that stick out for me, along with the show also teaching plenty of more specific lessons, such as different ways to choose a ripe melon (smell it, thump it, cut into it), getting your head frozen is probably not a great idea, if you own a food stand at the beach just yell, “Shark!” to get more business, how to make a traditional St. Olaf fun pack, and hundreds of other little tidbits. Entertaining, humorous, insightful, honest, and helpful- doesn’t get much better than that.

So if you haven’t seen it before, or in some time, go travel down that road with the girls. You’ll be glad you did.

*Grant Cochrane /

*Simon Howden /

6 thoughts on “Life Lessons: The Golden Girls

  1. Great post…brought back a lot of memories of the Golden Girls. It is sad that Estelle Getty died in 2008, Bea Arthur in 2009 and Rue McClanahan in 2010. Betty White is the only one still living.


  2. Great tribute to a show that indeed carved out a place in television sitcom history. Aside from the stars the biggest thing the show had going for it was Susan Harris, who also created “Soap” and “Benson.” Theme song will never be forgotten.


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